AFTER a short break, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders returned yesterday to their bitter struggle for the party’s control. Ousted National Chairman Ali Modu Sheriff took over the secretariat in Abuja, proclaiming himself the authentic leader and dismissing the Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee as an illegal body.
But the Makarfi camp wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), demanding to be recognised as the authentic leadership of the party.
INEC was yet to take a decision on the PDP crisis last night.
It was gathered that the electoral commission was awaiting the decision of the court on all pending issues.
Sheriff yesterday staged a dramatic return to the party’s national secretariat.
With Sheriff were erstwhile National Secretary Prof. Wale Oladipo, ousted National Auditor Adewole Adeyanju and a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak. There was a small crowd of supporters.
An initial attempt by the party chiefs to enter the building as early as 9a.m. was blocked by policemen manning the gate – apparently on the orders of the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee. Undeterred, Sheriff went to confer with Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase, at the Force Headquarters and got permission to be allowed into the building. On arrival at the secretariat, Sheriff said his tenure as chairman remained valid till December 2018. He dismissed the caretaker committee as an illegal body.
Said he: “After due consultations with serious-minded stakeholders of the party and my lawyers, against the background that I have remained committed to lawful procedures, I have come, fully armed with all the necessary court orders, to resume as national chairman, as directed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“As we settle down to move the party forward, we wish to call on all party members within and outside the country to come around so that we can together reposition the PDP for future challenges.
“We have served the necessary court orders on the Independent National Electoral Commission, which is the impartial arbiter in matters like this; the police as custodians of the law and we will make same available to you gentlemen of the press, so that you can make informed analysis of the issues involved. We hereby seek your own cooperation as we continue the task of re-engineering the PDP.
“I wish to use this opportunity to thank all those who stood on the side of the truth and the law, and wish to place on record that never again shall the PDP return to wallow in lawlessness and impunity.”
Last week, key party organs, including the governors, Board of Trustees (BoT) and National Assembly caucus, handed over the party’s affairs to the caretaker committee.
But Sheriff said the caretaker committee was alien to the PDP’s constitution and that if there was any need for setting up such a committee, he, as chairman, ought to have presided over the exercise.
“Against this backdrop, I hereby declare as null, void and of no consequence whatsoever, any action taken by any person or group of persons, except by my leadership which is recognised by law,” he declared.
He called on prospective aspirants for the upcoming governorship election in Edo State to obtain their nomination forms for N10 million as against the N16 million fixed by the caretaker committee.
“Any aspirant who obtains nomination form from the caretaker committee would have themselves to blame because the only National Working Committee recognised by law is the one presided over by me,” Sheriff said, adding:
“I therefore call on everyone to shun all acts that will tend to portray the party as being lawless. We must learn to obey our laws first before we can hope to provide the desired leadership.”
The former Borno State Governor accused the party of promoting illegalities and impunity – in disobedience to court orders. He described the caretaker committee as one of such cases of impunity.
According to him, he stayed away from the party in deference to a court order restraining him from parading himself as chairman. The said order lapsed after 14 days, Sheriff said, adding:
“I have all the while kept away from the office in strict compliance with the ex parte order of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court, which lapsed on the 9th of June and not because I sanction the illegalities being committed by some few members of our party.”
Makarfi’s committee writes INEC to demand recognition
The Ahmed Makarfi committee wrote INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu last week. The committee based its request on the outcome of the National Convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt and the decision of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party.
In the letter, the caretaker committee said it was put in place at the National Convention, which was supervised by INEC officials. It also asked INEC to deal with it henceforth on any issue relating to the party.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said the Caretaker Committee based its letter on the mandate given to it by the National Convention in line with Section 33(5) of the PDP Constitution.
The section says: “The National Convention shall have and exercise authority to (a) formulate policies and programmes of the party; (b) elect or remove the national officers of the party; (c) elect the presidential candidate of the party; (d) demand and receive reports from the National Executive Committee and from any other committees or organs of the party and take appropriate action on such reports; (e) appoint such committees as it may deem necessary, desirable or expedient and assign to them such powers and functions as it may deem fit.”
The source added: “If you read this section very well, the National Convention is empowered to raise the Caretaker Committee. “In fact, Section 31(5)(g) mandates the Board of Trustees to ‘offer advice on party matters to the National Executive Committee of the party’. “It was on these constitutional premises that the Caretaker Committee approached INEC for recognition. As a matter of fact, INEC supervised our National Convention.”
A highly-placed source in INEC confirmed the receipt of the letter. He said: “We have received a letter from Makarfi’s committee seeking recognition. “We have refrained from replying the letter because there are many cases in court on the crisis in the party with INEC joined in some matters. “We are therefore yet to take a decision to avoid committing any act of subjudice. We are yet to issue a letter of recognition to the Caretaker Committee. “I think we may go by the pronouncement of the court on this crisis.”
Asked when the INEC management will meet, the source added: “At the appropriate time.”